(transcript from the DVD by Max Dashu. [Additional notes appear in brackets].)
Continued from Part Four
ATHLETES, WARRIORS, AND REBELS
In this Australian rock art, female runners are hunting with a boomerang. In foraging cultures women attain a high degree of physical agility and endurance.
The Cretan bull leapers, both male and female, showed their skill and daring by seizing the bulls by the horns and vaulting over them.
Okinawa pearl divers
In Okinawa, the master pearl divers were women, who had the ability to go underwater deeper and longer than the men.
In the Philippines, Agta women are skilled archers with their longbows, often going out to hunt in groups with their dogs. [also known as Aetas]
Chand Bibi was one of many expert Rajput horsewomen. Some were polo players or huntresses. The redoubtable Noor Jehan hunted tigers, and ruled the Mughal empire too. [For more on her, see Fatima Mernissi’s book Sheherazade Goes West: Western Fantasies, Eastern Realities (2001).]
Also avid horsewomen, the Morochucas of South America, were unconcerned with European notions about ladylike sidesaddles.
In Iran, this acrobat of the Qajar court defied notions about female modesty and demureness, balancing herself on the point of a dagger.
Catalina Erausa (1585-1650)
Grainne Ní Mhaille (O’Mailley)
Lai Zho San
In the 1930s, Lai Zho San was a pirate in the South China Sea. There were also female bandits, like Bai Kuniang Bai and the notorious Widow Zhang.
Old Woman of Herat
REVOLUTIONARIES AND LIBERATORS
Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, 39 CE
Boudicca (d. 61 CE)
In the year 60, the Celtic queen Boudicca led British tribes in a revolt against the Roman empire, after the rape of her daughters and other injustices. They burned London and Colchester to the ground, and came close to forcing the Romans out. Nero almost pulled the legions out before the rising was crushed.
Zainab of Palmyra
Samsi of Nabataea
A thousand years before, Samsi, the female chieftain of the Kidri tribes, led a north Arabian insurrection against the Assyrian empire. There were many other Arab warrior queens.
In 1712 María Candelaria raised a major Maya revolt against the Spanish after they destroyed a shrine she built. The insurrection spread from Chiapas into neighboring areas. The colonials crushed the outgunned Maya resistance, but were never able to capture María.
Gabriela Silang led the Ilocos rebellion against Spanish rule in 1763 [after the killing of her husband Diego. She took over as general.] She recruited thousands of fighters armed with bamboo spears and blowdarts, and pulled out some victories. Captured in a daring attack on a Spanish garrison, Silang went to her execution with calm bravery. [Philippines]
In 1791 the old African priestess Cécile Fatiman inaugurated the Haitian revolution with a Vodou ceremony in the Bois Caiman. Carrying the loa goddess Ezili Danto, she blessed the rebel leader Boukmann with her Petro staff. [She lived to the age of 112.]
The Rani of Jhansi
Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi, led a major insurrection against English rule of India in 1858. Many other woman fought the British empire; in Zimbabwe …
led the Chimurenga in 1896. The Shona prevailed at first [forcing Cecil Rhodes to send for reinforcements with machine guns] but after two years, Nehanda finally surrendered to save her people from the devastating machine guns. She was defiant up to her last breath on the gallows. [The name Nehanda was a title of Shona lion oracles; this Nehanda was one of a line of holy women that stretched back to the 15th century. More on her in the Rebel Shamans presentation.]
Yaa Asantewa, 1840-1921
Qiu2 Jin3, 1875-1907
Caroline Norton 1808-1877
Caroline Norton changed English laws that made women legal minors and gave husbands absolute rights over wives’ bodies, property, earnings and children—as she experienced personally. She got Parliament to reform laws on child custody (1839) and marriage and divorce (1857), with far-reaching effects on women’s lives.
Matilda Joslyn Gage
was an important activist of the 19th-century women’s rights movement who was later written out of its history for being too radical. Her inclusive vision embraced African emancipation, Indian sovereignty, labor and prisoners’ rights. Gage broke new ground in women’s history and courageously pointed out the Church’s role in subjugating women. [See her book, Woman, Church, and State]
Anna Julia Cooper 1859-1964 or 1858-1963.
Gertrude Bonnin, Zitkala-Sa Yankton Nakota 1876-1938.
Kishida Toshiko 1863-1901
Was the first Japanese woman to speak in public for women’s rights. A brilliant orator, she drew crowds all over Japan. She was once jailed for saying that women’s horizons should be “as large and free as the world itself.”Pandita Ramabai, 1858-1922
spoke out passionately against child marriage, widow oppression, and prostitution; female infanticide, poverty and caste injustice. Most of her family starved to death, and she and her brother survived by reciting the Puranas. In their wanderings they saw much cruelty to women, and they became public speakers for women’s emancipation.
Ramabai began adopting street girls to save them from starvation and pimps. In 1889 she founded a refuge for child widows, run by women, [who taught girls how to earn a living. Her resolution on justice for widows was adopted by acclamation at the National Congress of India.]
Hoda Sharawi 1879-1947
led the first Egyptian women’s demonstration during the 1919 revolution. She spoke and wrote on women’s rights, and founded several organizations including the Egyptian Feminist Union in 1923, when she famously removed her face veil in public. [She was the first Egyptian woman to have her photograph with unveiled face appear in a newspaper.]
In the Jewish resistance to the Nazis, one of the most daring guerillas was Niuta Teitelboim. She once disguised herself as a call girl to get close to a Gestapo kommandant, shot him and coolly walked away. Teitelboim was killed in one of these dangerous actions.
Warsaw ghetto fighter
This woman was a fighter in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943. [Jews in underground bunkers held off Nazi tanks for a month, in the first and longest organized revolt in German-occupied Europe, under the worst possible conditions.] Some female fighters appeared to surrender but pulled out grenades at the last moment.
Lilian Masediba Ngoyi (1911-1980)
Was a leader in the South African resistance in the 1950s. [She was the first woman on the executive committee of the African National Congress] and head of its Women’s League. A rousing orator, Ma-Ngoyi was imprisoned after leading this women’s march on Pretoria …
Women’s march on Pretoria
… in 1956, some 20,000 strong, in opposition to making women carry passbooks. [South African women also demonstrated against taxes on beer-brewing, a female sphere and a major source of income for women.]
Wounded Knee Rising
When the Lakota took over the site of the Wounded Knee massacre to demand their 1868 treaty rights, the press attention went to men, but female elders like Ellen Moves Camp and Gladys Bissonette were key leaders, here shown negotiating with the feds.
Anna Mae Aquash
In Zimbabwe, Margaret Dongo was among the female guerillas who fought to bring down the white supremacist Rhodesian state. After the revolution, she became the first in Parliament to speak out against Mugabe and his attacks on women and other groups [gays, ethnic minorities, and opposition leaders].
Dr. Hanan Ashrawi is an activist for peace and human rights who was official spokesperson in negotiations with Israel, a cabinet minister, and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. [She continues to work for Palestinian rights and for peace.]
Women in Black, Jerusalem
Started in Jerusalem in 1988, during the first Intifada, standing silently with signs that said, Stop the Occupation, once a week in the same place. They inspired Women in Black in other countries: in Italy against the Mafia, in Germany defending migrant workers against neo-Nazis…
Women in Black, Serbia
… in Belgrade and Zagreb they protested ethnic slaughter of Bosnians. In Fiji they protested a military coup, in the US they opposed the bombings and occupation of Iraq.
From the late 60s on, feminists took to the streets, demanding justice and equal rights, and protesting violence against women. This massive abortion rights demonstration happened in Milan.
In the 90’s women marched through the streets of Algiers, in every style of dress, voicing their opposition to a proposal to adopt Shari’a law, which favors men. And they were successful.
Women in India have mobilized mass protests against dowry murders, sexual harassment in public, female infanticide and an array of issues. [And recently, there is the Gulabi Gang, women dressed in hot-pink saris, who confront perpetrators of violence and corruption and demand change, or else.]
Peshawar demo of RAWA
Here the Revolutionary Assn of Afghan Women demonstrates against Taliban control of Afghanistan. They are carrying a picture of Meena, who founded their women’s rights organization, RAWA, which educated girls in secret schools.
Kembatta women’s center
In Ethiopia, Boge Gebre and the Kembatta women’s center travel around with theater and videos to teach villagers about the harms of female genital excision. They ask people to raise their hands and take an oath that their daughters will be protected from the knife, and their brides. [Similar grassroots educational efforts to protect girls are going on in Senegal and other countries.]
Lifting up the land
Women also lead in protecting the Earth herself, from logging, huge dams, chemical poisons, and uranium mining.] This Australian is demonstrating an aboriginal ritual gesture of reverently “lifting up the land” [at an Aboriginal land rights parley with government officials.]Haida elders
with drums blockaded roads to their sacred forests to protect them from logging [in the Queen Charlotte Islands, off the coast of western Canada].
The spiritual leadership of women like the Chilean machi Sofia Painequeo accords with native sovereignty, female empowerment, and respect for Mother Earth. [machi: female shamans of the Mapuche people in southern Chile]
So remember, we all come from a long line of powerful and creative women, and take heart. We have work to do, justice to be won, life to sustain, and music to make.